For the second straight year, the New York Islanders are in the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup semifinals and fans in Queens say they have been waiting patiently for the team to achieve their recent success.
“I’ve been hooked on the Islanders since the early-90’s when my father had an employee with season tickets who took me to games,” said Joe DiGangi, owner of Mario’s Meats & Deli in Middle Village, himself an Isles season ticket holder now. “It’s been mostly downs but now it’s our time to boast.”
Before last season, the “Isles” had not reached the conference finals since 1993. They won four consecutive Stanley Cup titles between 1980 and 1983, then failed to make the playoffs through long stretches. In that time, the Isles’ crosstown rivals, the New York Rangers, won the cup in 1994, and the New Jersey Devils have won three cups since 1995.
Starting in the ‘15-16 season and ending with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, the Isles played some home games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The move from the aging Nassau Coliseum on Long Island was panned by critics, who cited obstructed views and an arena unfit for hockey. But the short-lived relocation did bring the Isles closer to fans from Western Queens and Brooklyn. Next season, the team will move to the brand-new UBS Arena opening at Belmont Park.
The Isles started winning after the hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Since then the team has made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, rallying their Queens fan base in the process.
Maspeth Federal Savings Bank, headquartered in Queens, has sponsored the Islanders for several seasons. The bank’s logo appears on the boards of the Isles home rink and in advertisements on the team’s website. “We’re so proud to sponsor the Islanders and wish them the very best of luck in their pursuit of the Stanley Cup,” said Thomas Rudzewick, the bank’s President & CEO.
Custom guitar builder Dean Gordon is a lifelong Isles fan. The Astoria resident even created a special “Isles guitar” that was raffled off to benefit the Islanders Children’s Foundation in 2017. “With the new ownership and management, I walk down the street and see Isles gear and fans,” Gordon said, “It’s fun being a part of a team making it’s stamp.”
Rego Park resident Sean McClain, a Zamboni driver, has maintained the Isles’ home ice in Brooklyn and on Long Island since 2016. “Seeing them successful is rewarding for all of us at work who make the ice surface that the pros play on. When the Isles win, it almost feels like we helped,” McClain said.
Katch, a gastropub in Astoria with many TV screens, regularly hosts the Queens chapter of the “Isles Meetup” watch parties. “The atmosphere has been electric,” said Andrew Bilder, who organizes the viewings. “There's nothing like playoff hockey. I'm excited to watch the team go further alongside some really amazing people in a really awesome place like Katch.”
Ten-year-old Isles fan James Jano of Flushing has made a believer out of his dad, Chris, a Rangers fan for more than 40 years. "This team is showing me something,” the elder Jano, a school bus driver, said. “They have really captivated me to a point where I have actually been cheering for them eagerly. I found it very easy to wear my son's cap."
Joe Termine has an Isles flag hanging outside his home in Middle Village. “I’ve been a fan for 42 years and I went to one of the Pittsburgh playoff-games and one against the Bruins,” Termine said. “There are a lot of Islanders fans in Queens–more than most people realize.”